Fear and Liberty

Larison on the bailout:

People have been cajoled into submission through fear and intimidation, and above all by the threat that life might become less comfortable.  In other words, advocates of the bailout are quite happy to say that liberty has a price and they are very happy to pay it so long as it avoids most of the unpleasantness.  "Give me liberty or give me a comfy retirement!" is not exactly a phrase that will live forever.  Thus an abject abandonment of liberty is here being implausibly dressed up as a defense of liberty ...

It is easy to talk about principle when there is no crisis happening and no risk attached to standing on principle.  The real test comes when holding fast may actually cost something.  Holding to a principle, if it means anything, means that you value it more than mere self-interest, satisfaction or comfort.  A lot of Americans want to have it all-the pretense that they are free, with none of the responsibilities or dangers that go with it.  In reality, you can either have the latter and remain free, or you can cease being free and then be kept free (temporarily) from responsibility and danger.

I don't think there's any question, at this point, that the bailout being considered will do real damage to the principles of free markets and limited government: The only question is how severe what Jim Manzi terms the "ideological costs" end up being. But as a layman in these matters, with no way of judging independently how materially awful the costs of inaction might be, I'm sitting here watching the House vote and the market drop and drop and thinking exactly what Larison's hypothetical American is thinking: If the defeat of the bailout is a victory for liberty, it's a victory whose costs I'm not prepared to bear.